News Update: New England Ave. Project Denied


by Anne Mooney

On a 5-0 vote last night, the Commission denied BFC Holdings’ application to build a 52,600 square-foot mixed use complex at 158 E. New England Ave.

Fuzzy Parking Math Still Not Cleared Up

The basis for denial was the applicant’s failure to offer sufficient mitigation for the 80- to 100-space parking deficit (the exact number depends on who’s counting and how). Even though the City was prepared to grant an unprecedented concession of requiring three parking spots per 1,000 square feet of office/retail space – all other Class A office buildings in Winter Park are required to provide four spaces per thousand – BFC Holdings still came up short.

CBD Parking Study Now in Progress

When this project was tabled at the March 27 Commission meeting, Planning Director Dori Stone observed that the City’s parking studies needed updating. The City has since hired a consultant, Kimley-Horn, who is now in the midst of a parking assessment of the Central Business District (CBD). Commissioners suggested that allowing this project to go forward with such a large parking variance before they have the study results would be premature.

If the Parking Code is Wrong, Why Is It Still In Place?

Commissioner Sarah Sprinkel objected to the Commission being asked to grant what amounts to a change in the parking code for a single applicant. “Why is the code still in place, even when you are now telling us it shouldn’t be?” asked Sprinkel.

‘Class A Office in the CBD Is Different’

At the March 27 Commission meeting, Planning Director Dori Stone asserted that Class A office space in the CBD operated differently from Class A office space in any other part of Winter Park and could, therefore, be supported by three spaces per 1,000 square feet.

‘What Is Class A Office, Anyway?’

At the July 10 meeting, Planning Manager Jeff Briggs stated that staff “was having difficulty coming up with an agreed-upon definition of Class A office space.” Parameters for size and other characteristics of everything from hallways to conference rooms, which would set ‘Class A’ apart from Classes B or C, apparently do not exist.

Can Valet Parking Promise Be Enforced?

Referring to the applicant’s assurances that all visitors to the new complex would be required to use valet parking, either in the New England Avenue building garage or in the Bank of America garage across the street, Commissioner Greg Seidel questioned how the requirement to use valet parking would be enforced.

Unless the applicant enforces the valet parking, it probably will not be enforced at all, since Winter Park employs only one parking enforcement officer for the entire City.

Time to Close This Chapter

Commissioners asked the applicant for compromise. “The building is lovely,” they all agreed, “but it’s too big.” Commissioner Peter Weldon said he thought it was time to “close the chapter” on the application in its current form, and he moved to deny. The other four Commissioners agreed.

Duck the Summer Heat & You’ll Miss All the Fun

BFC Holdings is Back with New England Ave. Project

July 8, 2017 / by Anne Mooney

BFC Holdings will return to the Commission on Monday, July 10, with their proposal to build a 52,600 square-foot mixed use building at 158 East New England Avenue.

BFC Wants Big Variances

The proposal came before Planning & Zoning and then the Commission in March of this year. Neither body was able to reach a decision regarding the project, which requests variances for building height, third-floor setbacks and a significant parking deficit.

P&Z Can’t Decide

After hearing the application on March 7, P&Z was evenly divided, with a 3-3 vote. Rather than tabling again – as they had at the November 7, 2016 meeting — or denying the application, P&Z kicked it forward to the Commission.

Commission Can’t Decide

On March 27, the Commission couldn’t decide either. They were okay with the variance for 45 feet of building height, rather than the 40 feet permitted in C-2 zoning. They were also willing to go along with a vertical façade along Knowles Avenue with no setback or terracing on the third floor to break up the vertical mass of the 45-foot-high wall. But they just couldn’t solve the applicant’s fuzzy parking math. See Winter Park Sings the Parking Blues.

‘Back to the Drawing Board’

Concluding a meeting that lasted well beyond 10:00 p.m., the Commission unanimously voted to table the application, advising the applicant their project “was not ready for prime time,” and to “work things out” regarding the parking variances.

What’s Changed Since March 27th Meeting?

According to the July 10 Agenda Packet, City staff has “discussed parking issues and suggested changes with the applicant based on comments made by individual commissioners at the public hearing. However, the application is unchanged since the March 27th meeting.”

Only the Weather Has Changed

Apparently, the only things that have changed are the weather and the requirement for public notice. According to City Code, after a tabling the only people required to receive notice in the mail of a public hearing are property owners within 1,500 feet of the subject property. The hearing is, however, publicly advertised, as are all public meetings.

Form, Not Content

The application contains a draft Developer’s Agreement that was not included in the March 27th application. According to the Agenda Packet, the agreement incorporates approvals needed and commitments from the applicant made at the March 27th meeting. The draft, however, contains changes recommended by the City Attorney only “as to form but not content.”

Two Hearings Required for Approval

Since no decision was reached at three previous hearings, BFC still has to clear the hurdles. As a request for Conditional Use for a three-story building within the Central Business District, BFC’s application requires two more hearings. A July 10 Commission decision to approve the project would result in a second hearing July 24.

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    By: Anne Mooney

    Anne Mooney has assumed the editorship of the Winter Park Voice from founding editor Tom Childers.

    Mooney got her start in New York as a freelance line editor for book publishers, among them Simon & Schuster and the Clarkson Potter division of Crown Books. From New York, she and her husband and their year-old toddler moved to Washington, D.C., where the two ran a newswire service for Harper’s magazine. “We called it Network News,” said Mooney, “because it was a network of the Harper’s writers, whose work we edited into newspaper style and format and sold to papers in the top U.S. and Canadian markets. We were sort of like a tiny UPI.”

    The newswire ceased operation with the death of Mooney’s first husband, but Mooney continued to write and edit, doing freelance work for Williams Sonoma cookbooks and for local publications in D.C.

    In 2005, Mooney moved to Winter Park, where she worked as a personal chef and wrote a regular food column for a south Florida magazine. She took an active interest in Winter Park politics and was there when the Winter Park Voice was founded. She wrote occasional pieces for the Voice, including the Childers bio that this piece replaces.

    The Winter Park Voice is one of a large number of “hyper-local” publications that have sprung up across the U.S. in response to the decline of the major daily newspapers and the resulting deficit of local news coverage. The Voice’sbeat is Winter Park City Hall, and its purpose is to help the residents of our city better understand the political forces that shape our daily lives.

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